Tag Archives: autism spectrum disorder

The autism spectrum

Day 72

They say my beloved little nephew is somewhere on the autism spectrum. What does this mean?

He tells incredibly detailed stories about dragons, and squirrels, and snoopy. He runs and jumps and twirls as he narrates. He can sit and paint or draw for hours on end, a million masterpieces that we proudly tape to the walls.

He tells jokes and laughs loud, talks to his trains, and “reads” us books in his raspy baby voice, his interpretations of the pictures far more interesting than the words that are on the page.

He loves with such intensity that he clenches his jaw and bares his teeth, hugs us hard in a huge embrace.

He has trouble reading the emotions in a face, it is a language that is unfamiliar to him. This frustrates him and so sometimes he hits, other kids mostly, especially ones smaller than him, and non-verbal.

Revel has learned to watch his moods. He’s ready with a kiss for his cuzzie on the good days, or knows to steer clear if it’s not the right time.

And when they sit together and watch the birds out the window, and the squirrels, I can almost forget there’s anything wrong with the world.

photo by Andrea Herr

photo by Andrea Herr


And then I come back to the same question that keeps repeating and repeating in my mind, in my heart.

Why is he autistic? What is this strange affliction that turns ones’ own nervous system upside down, wires the brain in ways that makes everything more intense? The colors, the lights, the sounds.

And I know there are a million different theories, and studies, and ideas about what is really going on, but to me the answer is clear.

And here we come back to it again.

It’s the same thing causing the monarchs to disappear, the starfish to turn to sludge on the ocean floor, and the sweet bees to drop from the sky one by one.

It’s the toxic cocktail that is our civilization.

It’s the pesticides, and herbicides, and plastic junk, and PVC’s, and BPA.s, and synthetic hormones, and antibiotics, and perfumes, and Red #40, and nuclear radiation, and WI-FI, and pharmaceuticals, a hazy smog that hangs in our air, swims through our waters, and coats our food.

Our poor, soft, animal bodies are literally falling apart under the strain of so many toxins, overloaded, turned inside out, ravaged, wrecked.

It’s the same thing that causes infertility, and antibiotic resistant infections, and asthma, and diabetes, and AIDS, and heart disease, and stroke, and cancer.

Our civilization is killing us, one by one, little by little. It’s like kneeling on the chopping block, or looking down the barrel of the executioner’s gun.

We have created a world made out of poison.

And the only ones who can stop it is us.

We need to admit we have a problem, say it loud, and then join together and scream, “NO MORE CHEMICALS!”

Get rid of our plastic, our chemical cleaners, our factory farmed food, our cars.

Find ways to send the message to our neighbors spraying round-up, to the farmer down the lane, to the oil tycoons in their cushy offices and billion dollar yachts.

Find out where our food comes from, or better yet, grow our own.

Make very deliberate decisions about what we choose, do, and consume.

We need to be unafraid to make change,

to help one another,

and to be radical, rebellious.


The funny thing is my nephew’s autism is nothing but a gift,

a different way of seeing the world,

and I wouldn’t have him any other way.


But the knowledge that corporations and chemical companies,

would dare try to sell out my boy’s future for a buck,

makes my blood seethe and boil, makes me see the boldest red.

And that should make their blood run cold,

because now I want



The kind that comes from joining hand in human hand,

and turning our backs slowly and deliberately,

on the toxic junk they have to offer.


I am a lioness ready to fight,

muscles quivering, teeth bared,

razor sharp claws leaving pinpricks

on soft earth


large paws.


For the right time,

for the chance I know will surely come,


for them to make a mistake.

And when they do

I will


Thank you for listening,





Extinction Blast

Day 19
I learned a new term this week from my beloved little nephew’s behavior specialist.
Used to describe a tantrum so intense, so knock-down, drag-out, tornado rage of emotion, that by the end of the episode, the behavior that triggered the episode disappears, is eliminated, is put to rest forever.
They call it an extinction blast.
I want an extinction blast.
I want to wail for so long and so loud that I’m cleared of this grief, this heavy sense of loss. Our water is poisoned.
I want to throw myself to the ground, chest heaving, face soaked, and feel the anger slipping away. All Pacific bluefin tuna are radioactive.
I want to rage against the ones responsible for this, responsible for trashing the world, responsible for making people sick, and sad, and  for making us forget everything is alive. I want to kick, and bite, and thrash until I can taste the rust of my own blood in my mouth.
And that’s just where I am tonight. There’s no ending on this one. I just want the sweet relief of a raging tantrum, just like my beloved nephew has sometimes. And afterwards, his eyes are clear, and he is calm, and he can focus on the next step.
I want that.
Thanks for listening,
Our guest writer tonight, and her subject matter, are very close to my heart. She’s my sister. I adore her, and love her son just as though he was my own. Thank you Andrea, for being so brave, for teaching me so much, for challenging me, and loving me despite my own flaws. I am insanely proud of you and love both you and your boy “way up to the sky.” Thank you for sharing your story here. xoxo
Finding a Center of Stillness
Today, I am in mourning. I mourn for the ones who struggle with mental illnesses that have been caused by the imbalances in our society and our world.
My son was recently diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Upon hearing this, I was devastated. The world as I knew it had come crashing down. The baby who I cradled in my belly for nine long months, the funny little boy who has taught me so much about love and life and laughter…I was being told there was something the matter with him. My heart broke.
My heart broke for him, for the stigma I felt from this point on would be attached to him, for the frustration, anger and confusion I know he often feels but can’t, as much as I fiercely wish I could, protect him from. And my heart felt broken because it isn’t his fault. This is just who he is, he was born this way. In his own, uniquely beautiful way.
Someday I will tell him about my own struggles with my own diagnoses, bipolar disorder. I will share with him my own frustration, anger and confusion…the way I have lived my own life often struggling to find a balance, a healthy middle ground, a center of stillness between the light and the dark of elation and depression…how I have felt at times like a wild howling wounded animal, lost and broken, a secret hiding with scars.
And I will share with him the delicate beauty of it all, how I have come to love this thing, which some might call an illness or affliction, but which I choose to look at as more of a gift. And I will tell him that his gift is just as special. Because these gifts, mine and his, and the gifts of countless others, allow us to experience the world in a different sort of way.
I’ve come to appreciate how strongly and deeply I feel emotions, and there is indeed beauty in sadness just as there will always be a hint of darkness hiding somewhere in the light.
So I will be fighting for the ones who think they’re broken. The ones who feel lost. Because they’re not broken. Or lost. I will be fighting because we are all in this together…and if we don’t fight for each other, who will?
                                           In mourning, solidarity, and rebellion,
  Light, love, and peace,